United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division
OPINION AND ORDER
CAMERON MCGOWAN CURRIE SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
this action, Plaintiff seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his
claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”).
Plaintiff appealed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
matter is currently before the court for review of the Report
and Recommendation (“Report”) of Magistrate Judge
Paige J. Gossett, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rules 73.02(b)(2)(a) and 83.VII.02, et
Report, filed February 7, 2019, recommends the decision of
the Commissioner be affirmed. ECF No. 14. On February 21,
2019, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report. ECF No. 16.
On March 6, 2019, the Commissioner filed a response to
Plaintiff's objections. ECF No. 17. For the reasons
stated below, the court declines to adopt the Report and
remands to the Commissioner for further administrative
Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court.
The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the
responsibility to make a final determination remains with the
court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The
court is charged with making a de novo determination of those
portions of the Report to which specific objection is made,
and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in
part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit
the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews only for clear
error in the absence of an objection. See Diamond v.
Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315
(4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of a
timely filed objection, a district court need not conduct a
de novo review, but instead must ‘only satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record in
order to accept the recommendation.'”) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).
role of the federal judiciary in the administrative scheme
established by the Social Security Act is a limited one.
Section 205(g) of the Act provides, “[t]he findings of
the Secretary as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The court must uphold the Commissioner's decision
as long as it was supported by substantial evidence and
reached through the application of the correct legal
standard. Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650 (4th
Cir. 2005). This standard precludes a de novo review of the
factual circumstances that substitutes the court's
findings for those of the Commissioner. Vitek v.
Finch, 438 F.2d 1157 (4th Cir. 1971). “From this
it does not follow, however, that the findings of the
administrative agency are to be mechanically accepted. The
statutorily granted right of review contemplates more than an
uncritical rubber stamping of the administrative
action.” Flack v. Cohen, 413 F.2d 278, 279
(4th Cir. 1969). “[T]he courts must not abdicate their
responsibility to give careful scrutiny to the whole record
to assure that there is a sound foundation for the
[Commissioner's] findings, and that his conclusion is
rational.” Vitek, 438 F.2d at 1157-58.
However, the court does not “reweigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute
[its] judgment for that of the ALJ.” Johnson,
434 F.3d at 653. “Where conflicting evidence allows
reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
applied for SSI in September of 2014, alleging disability as
of January 1, 2012 (later amended to September 18, 2014) due
to mental issues, dislocated right shoulder, lower back pain,
and bipolar disorder. R. at 262. Plaintiff's application
was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On March 29,
2017, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). On May 31, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision, finding Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act from the alleged onset date through the
date of decision. R. at 15-33. Plaintiff requested review by
the Appeals Council, which was denied, making the
determination of the ALJ the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff filed this action December 19, 2017.
ECF No. 1.
Magistrate Judge recommends the court affirm the
Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff objects to the Report,
arguing: (1) the ALJ erred in failing to properly evaluate
the demands of Plaintiff's past relevant work, potential
conflicts with Plaintiff's RFC, and his ability to
perform alternate jobs; (2) the ALJ erred in failing to
assess the credibility of Plaintiff's father; and (3) the
ALJ made “multiple errors” when evaluating
opinion evidence. ECF No. 16. The Commissioner argues
Plaintiff's objections essentially rehash arguments made
in her brief before the Magistrate Judge. ECF No. 17. She
also argues Plaintiff's reliance on Thomas v.
Berryhill, 916 F.3d 307 (4th Cir. 2019) is misplaced.
Id. at 2.
Relevant Work/Alternative Jobs
first argues the ALJ failed to “adequately evaluate the
demands of Taylor's past work or compare them to his RFC
before finding that he could return to this work.” ECF
No. 16 at 1. He contends the alternate jobs offered by the
Vocational Expert (“VE”) conflict with the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT” or
“Dictionary”), and the ALJ did not resolve this
conflict. Id. He notes the Magistrate Judge agreed,
but found this error harmless based on the ALJ's findings
of alternate jobs in the national economy. Id. at 2.
Plaintiff disagrees with the Magistrate Judge's assertion
that the ALJ's error was harmless, citing recent Fourth
Circuit case law. Id. at 3.
found Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, with
nonexertional limitations; specifically, he is limited to
“performing simple, routine, repetitive tasks”
which he can maintain for at least two hours, and is limited
to “no required ongoing interaction with the general
public or close, team-type interaction with
co-workers.” ECF No. 9-2 at 23. While the ALJ found
Plaintiff could return to his past relevant work as a
warehouse laborer or canvas laborer, the Magistrate Judge
found this conclusion unsupported by substantial evidence.
ECF No. 14 at 9. However, the Magistrate Judge found the
ALJ's alternate finding other jobs exist in the national
economy that Plaintiff could perform meant remand was not
cites Thomas, 916 F.3d at 313-14, and argues the
Magistrate Judge is in error because there is an unresolved
apparent conflict between his limitation to perform
“simple, routine repetitive tasks” and a GED
reasoning level of 2, which is required by the alternate jobs
identified by the ALJ. ECF No. 16 at 2. The Commissioner
argues no conflict exists because Plaintiff was limited to
simple, routine, repetitive tasks, as opposed to
“short, simple instructions, ” and the limitation
does not conflict ...